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Quotes

Quote #1

It was very big to think about everything and everywhere. Only God could do that. He tried to think what a big thought that must be; but he could only think of God. God was God's name just as his name was Stephen. Dieu was the French for God and that was God's name too; and when anyone prayed to God and said Dieu then God knew at once that it was a French person that was praying. But, though there were different names for God in all the different languages in the world and God understood what all the people who prayed said in their different languages, still God remained always the same God and God's real name was God. (1.2.40)

Stephen understands that God exists and has a name, but he doesn’t quite understand what God’s purpose is or how He works. Not that any of us really understand that – after all, the point of organized religion is to explain these things – but Stephen is still grappling with the most basic concept of divinity.

Quote #2

There was a cold night smell in the chapel. But it was a holy smell. It was not like the smell of the old peasants who knelt at the back of the chapel at Sunday mass. That was a smell of air and rain and turf and corduroy. But they were very holy peasants. They breathed behind him on his neck and sighed as they prayed. (1.2.45)

Holiness, to Stephen, is tied up in sensory experience. Because he associates a certain smell with the physical space of the church, that smell becomes holy. Furthermore, the peasants’ presence in the church makes them holy, as well, even though we’re pretty sure that they’re just your average Irish peasants.

Quote #3

– We go to the house of God, Mr Casey said, in all humility to pray to our Maker and not to hear election addresses.
– It is religion, Dante said again. They are right. They must direct their flocks.
– And preach politics from the altar, is it? asked Mr Dedalus.
– Certainly, said Dante. It is a question of public morality. A priest would not be a priest if he did not tell his flock what is right and what is wrong. (1.3.25)

Conflicting views on the role of the Church arise here. Mr. Casey and Mr. Dedalus don’t believe that the Church should use its influence on politics, but Dante claims that it’s the duty of the priests to direct their congregations. This sets the stage for Stephen’s own struggles with religion.

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